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PHOTOS: Neighbors in the Fan socialize at a safe distance during weekly ‘#PorchSolidarity Parties’

Neighbors in the Fan have found a creative way to socialize during this time of social distancing, and do it from the comfort – and safe distance – of their own porches. Reader Rachel Scott Everett and her husband Brian Gibson organize regular porch gatherings to catch up with neighbors over drinks, music, and conversation.

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Neighbors in the Fan have found a creative way to socialize during this time of social distancing, and do it from the comfort – and safe distance – of their own porches. Reader Rachel Scott Everett and her husband Brian Gibson organize regular porch gatherings to catch up with neighbors over drinks, music, and conversation.

“While the photos may appear fun and carefree, all of us are currently facing different challenges regarding health, family, loss of work, financial strain, etc.,” Rachel said in an email to RVAHub. “This time offers everyone an hour to come out on their respective porches (or stoop or front yard) and (re)connect in solidarity – possibly with neighbors they may not have seen or met before.”

She says it’s an easy and fun way to “keep our spirits up.”

We hope these photos brighten your day as much as they did ours.

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People

More comfortable, accessible GRTC bus stops coming, transit authority says

At least half of all GRTC bus stops in the City of Richmond, Chesterfield County, and Henrico County will soon have a more comfortable, accessible, and dignified place to wait for a ride.

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At least half of all GRTC bus stops in the City of Richmond, Chesterfield County, and Henrico County will soon have a more comfortable, accessible, and dignified place to wait for a ride.

Only five percent of GRTC’s 1,609 active local stops have a shelter, and 21 percent have seating. Less than half of those stops predate the Americans with Disabilities Act and are not compliant. And most stops lacking adequate infrastructure are in low-income areas throughout Central Virginia.

Under a plan approved by the transit system’s board of directors, GRTC will install 160 shelters and 225 benches over five years. Work is expected to begin in the summer of 2023. GRTC also will coordinate with jurisdictions to improve ADA compliance at stops to further the agency’s push to be more inclusive.

“This is one of several GRTC strategic initiatives planned that aim to address the various impediments to transit access and ultimately inequities,” said Director of Planning and Scheduling Sam Sink. “GRTC champions social and economic mobility by prioritizing connecting people to essential human services and needs. With proper operational and capital investment, transit is a factor that can improve overall quality of life.”

The Essential Transit Infrastructure (ETI) plan will cost between $11 million and $28.6 million, and be funded through a combination of local, state, and federal grants.

GRTC will use a scoring system that considers usage and equity to determine which stops qualify for improvements. Anyone may request a bench or shelter via email at [email protected], through the GRTC website, or by calling 804-358-4782.

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Crime

New VCU study directly connects derelict properties to risk of violence in Richmond neighborhoods

Negligent landlords — those who allow their properties to become dilapidated despite having tenants — are a significant predictor of violence in Richmond neighborhoods, even more than personal property tax delinquency, population density, income levels and other factors, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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By Brian McNeill, VCU News

Negligent landlords — those who allow their properties to become dilapidated despite having tenants — are a significant predictor of violence in Richmond neighborhoods, even more than personal property tax delinquency, population density, income levels and other factors, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Negligent landlords contribute significantly to violence in Richmond neighborhoods via the environment,” said lead author Samuel West, Ph.D., an alum of the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences and an assistant professor of psychology at Virginia State University. “This impact was above and beyond the impact of those who live in these neighborhoods in terms of the state of their respective properties.”

West and other researchers at VCU collected data on violence events, tax delinquency of company-owned properties (such as rental homes and apartments), tax delinquency of personal properties, population density, race, income, food stamps and alcohol outlets for each of Richmond’s 148 neighborhoods.

Tax delinquency of company-owned properties was the only variable that predicted violence in all but four of Richmond’s 148 neighborhoods.

The researchers replicated the analysis using violence data for a different time period and found the same result.

“The key finding here was that the company delinquency was a stronger or more important correlate of violence than personal delinquency,” said West, who initiated the project while serving as a postdoctoral researcher with the Injury and Violence Prevention Program at VCU Health.

The study, “Comparing Forms of Neighborhood Instability as Predictors of Violence in Richmond, VA,” was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One.

In addition to West, the study was authored by Diane L. Bishop, an instructor in the Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health in the School of Medicine; Derek Chapman, Ph.D., interim director for research at the VCU Center on Society and Health and an assistant professor in the Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health; and Nicholas Thomson, Ph.D., director of research for the Injury and Violence Prevention Program at VCU Health Trauma Center.

The findings are consistent with previous research that suggests “slumlord buyout programs” are tied to reduced violence in cities, West said. For example, a program in Philadelphia purchased neglected properties in the East Liberty neighborhood and provided them to community residents to renovate and rehabilitate. It led to a decline in violence over a sustained period of time, West said.

“Although we acknowledge this would be a massive effort, the data do support the use of such programs to curb violence among other social difficulties,” West said. “I believe that Richmond is a perfect place to attempt a program like this at a larger scale than was done in Philadelphia (i.e., a single neighborhood).”

There are no laws in Virginia protecting tenants from eviction if their landlord loses their rental property to state property auction, West said. In Richmond, along with most medium to large cities, delinquent properties are seized and auctioned off to recoup costs, he said.

“When this happens, the winners of the auction are typically given carte blanche to decide what to do with the tenants as they no longer have a valid contractual agreement,” he said. “This aspect greatly endangers the residential stability of our neighborhoods.”

West was inspired to explore this topic through his observation of dilapidated buildings next to new construction in Richmond.

“Given the preponderance of real estate development and the aggressive housing market in Richmond, it seemed important to better understand how these seemingly inane facets of our society may impact some of our deepest problems,” he said.

The researchers hope their findings will contribute to a growing perspective by scholars that research should break away from the traditional view that members of a community hold the majority of the blame for violence that occurs there.

“Our work, along with other recent research, emphasizes that we need to be examining and addressing the impacts of forces from outside high-violence communities that carry such major consequences,” West said.

He added, however, that individual autonomy might also be considered a key factor.

“Social psychologists place a major emphasis on autonomy as a psychological need. In the case of a negligent landlord, the tenant(s) may live in a constant state of highly salient violations of their own autonomy which may further undermine attempts to improve the conditions of their own communities,” he said. “As evinced by the East Liberty project from Philadelphia, when this autonomy is restored, it is used in a productive fashion such that it improves the quality of life and safety of all in their communities through restoring their collective efficacy.”

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History

New book on Lewis Ginter is a fictionalized take on his real-world love affair with a younger man

Ginter’s naming of a street that intersects Hermitage Road in the Lakeside neighborhood “Pope” was perhaps the only visible sign of his affection during his living years.

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Lewis Ginter has often been referenced as “the greatest Richmonder of all time.” That attribution speaks to the man’s accomplishments, having built a thriving Tobacco business after the Civil War and set the Virginia Economy on a path toward prosperity and acclaim for decades to come. Among his ‘firsts’ were the introduction of Trading Cards, the employment of women, and a cooperative mindset for local suppliers to reduce costs for both parties.

His other achievements included several infrastructure projects that created neighborhoods, parks, and churches. He was the initial investor in what became Virginia Power, and his trolley system was the first continually operating public transport of its kind in North America. He financed and built the only five-star hotel in Richmond: The Jefferson. He named it for his childhood idol.

Despite all of his successes, he refused to have any statues of himself and would not allow his name to be used for any of his projects. During his lifetime, there were no streets, buildings, neighborhoods, or parks named for him. His one tribute was the naming of a street that intersects Hermitage Road in the Lakeside neighborhood: Pope.

This simple gesture is the only public indication that Lewis was in fact head over heels in love with a younger man. After having met John Pope in Manhattan, Lewis expended a lot of effort to find the young man and convince the teenager’s family to allow John a chance of success in Richmond. From the time they connected as colleagues, they were also beginning a decades-long romantic ‘friendship’ that we now understand as love.

A new local book series is hoping to shed light on some of his more personal details. Ginter’s Pope, local author John Musgrove’s first novel, is a detailed accounting of their relationship. While it is Historical Fiction, the saga is based on the true-life events that made their love story a touching, heartbreaking tale of two men that loved one another in a time when there were no words for such a relationship. This is book one in the Reticent Richmond series.

This book is the first in a planned series of four. The next volume, Mary’s Grace will expand upon Grace Arents (Ginter’s Niece and heir) and her girlfriend, Mary Garland Smith. Book three, Garland’s Legacy details the forty years of patronage that Garland lavished on Richmond. The last book, George’s Race, tells the story of George Arents, a racecar driver that left his wife for a man that stole his heart on the racetrack. All are based on real-life people, events, and sagas from the same family.

The author, John Musgrove, is an information security analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He has graduated five times from VCU, holding a BS and MS in Information Systems, and Post Baccalaureate Certificates in Instructional Technology, Nonprofit Management, and Geospatial Information Systems. He served as a Navy Corpsman, supporting the Marine Corps and did a tour of duty for Desert Storm. 

Ginter’s Pope is available through most retailers in paperback, eBook, and audiobook formats. Click here to learn more.

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